As humans we are wired for story. Stories help us make sense of our lives from the time we are small children.
“Just one more book, Mommy. Pretty please,” says your little three year old.
Our nine year old son, Cory, likes to swap bedtime stories with his dad about each of them having extremely specific super powers. (Evidently this is a “thing” with boys according to my hubby.)
We love novels and movies and t.v. because we love being entertained by other people’s stories, real or make believe.
In her new book, My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem – a leader and major activist in The Feminist Movement says, “We have passed down knowledge through story and song…Our brains are organized by narrative and image.”
In the photo above, is Ms. Steinem saying that learning through story evokes this “radical” emotion called empathy igniting our desire to take action and end injustice?
The definition of empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
When we feel empathic toward others upon understanding their story, it seems impossible to continue seeing the world only according to our point of view. We begin to operate more from a place of what makes sense collectively and feels fair for all of us.
My parenting philosophy speaks to this main premise. I believe that as parents if we can see the world from our child’s perspective and interact with them empathically, our kid’s feel understood and behave cooperatively. This shift has been a game changer for me as a person and a mom.
I, too, love stories. I love hearing funny stories from friends. I love watching & listening to celebrity and thought leader interviews & learning their stories (my current fave is Andy Cohen’s interview series called, Deep and Shallow, station 102 on Sirius satellite radio.)
I love learning the stories of my client’s lives and supporting them as they put the pieces together and make sense of behaviors and patterns they are ready to begin changing. For good.
But most of all, I love slowly remembering, researching and learning the story of my own life. It is fascinating. I am really curious about myself.
I think it takes courage to stop running from our past and become willing and even curious to learn about ourselves. Putting the puzzle pieces together not from a place of blaming all that should have been different but really accepting the reality of what is.
This did not come easily for me. Not one bit. I was a classic example of someone that would rather put my head in the sand and do whatever it takes to avoid truly looking at my past…
Let alone make sense of it.
I used to gossip – focusing on figuring out other people’s stories rather than my own. It wasn’t hard to find companions in doing this because this is the norm for many of us where it feels too vulnerable to share ourselves honestly with another but in an attempt to connect, we discuss others. I have even read that the easiest way to bond with someone is through discussing a common enemy or finding a shared injustice.
This can easily be accomplished by talking about everyone else’s imperfect stories and avoiding our own.
However, it is through the willingness to discuss our own messy experiences that true connections solidify. Brene Brown teaches this as sharing vulnerably with those that have earned the right to hear our story.
The interesting thing is that once I started tracing back the roots of my story, learning about my history and sharing honestly with people I can trust, something I wasn’t expecting happened.
I started to experience tremendous relief and healing in areas that I had no idea I needed.
I got curious and asked questions like these:
· Why did my dad have a bad temper and where was it rooted?
· Why was it so easy for me to go to a place of blame when something went wrong in my life?
· What are the details of my grandmother’s Holocaust story and what she endured? Why had she never discussed any of it with her 5 sons or 13 grandchildren?
· What was life like in my mom’s house growing up?
When you start embracing your story from a place of adult curiosity rather than still seeing it from your childhood perspective, all I can say is, “WOW”.
It is just as Gloria Steinam suggests, empathy enters the scene. I noticed a perspective shift from child mind to adult mind seemed to occur within me.
The empathy replaced the resentment and allowed forgiveness to come forth. Before I knew it, the stories involving resentment about my childhood seemed to fade.
The word resentment when broken down can be seen as re-sentiment…reliving the sentiment over and over. Who wants to live like that? Talk about something that makes you feel badly.
This release of resentment feels liberating…maybe even like freedom in some cases.
Your story becomes like that book you mourn the ending of even before the final page because you know it has been your best friend for the last week or so and you aren’t ready to say goodbye.
“The book of your life” always has another chapter or a previous chapter that you missed because the memory wasn’t here yet. It has just resurfaced…AND there is no ending in sight that you know of.
You are fascinating. Your life is absolutely the most captivating story you will ever choose to remember.
Trust me on this – you aren’t going to be able to put the YOU book down.